The Design of the Year 2013 awards were announced on Tuesday and for the first time ever a website won the prestigious title of “design of the yearâ€.

However you might be surprised when you look at it – as it’s not exactly pretty (the home page at least)!‘s wide columns, blue links and basic graphics make it look very simple compared to some of the more elaborate web designs you might see and fall in love with.

But that’s the point. It’s simple because it needs to be usable. And that’s what makes it an example of great design – think design as product rather than design as aesthetic. Other category winners including Kit Yamoyo medicine pods. launched in October 2012 to replace and Business Link as part of the Government’s “Digital by Default†strategy – a path recommended in a report by Martha Lane Fox, co-founder of It’s basically everything a citizen might need to know in 1 place. That’s a lot of information and therefore it needs to be easy to find – by those web savvy and those not so. The strap line on the site is simply “Simpler, clearer, fasterâ€.

Ben Terrett, head of design at Government Digital Service told the Guardian how it’s the sort of site people only visit a couple of times of year – when you need to tax your car similar – so a great deal of information has to be given the same amount of precedence as other info, whilst none of it appearing overwhelming. It’s not the sort of site you’ll visit repeatedly and so learn the quirks of.  The Guardian quotes some of the 10 design principles which led the site’s creation as “start with user needs, not government needsâ€, “be consistent, not uniform†and “do lessâ€.

I’ve just given it a whirl myself and it did seem very easy to find information. And that information was then clearly worded and to the point – first to reassure you that’d you’d found the right information, and then to feed that information to you. My tests were “fake†– just example queries I could think up this morning, so I hope it’s as useful when I have a genuine query – I expect it will be.

For searches from the home page for “vat registeredâ€, “change my passport now married†and “arrange a prison visit†(one of the examples cited by Terrett – so you’d expect that to be clear…) I found the information I needed within 2 clicks. Home page > Search button > Top search result (or 2nd result for the prison example).